California employment laws provide some of the strongest protections in the world for workers. Those protections include your right to meal and rest breaks. If an employer violates an employee’s meal and rest break rights, the employer must pay the employee meal and rest break penalties.
A breakdown of meal and rest break penalties
- The current meal penalty in California is one hour’s wages for each day the employee did not get a meal break.
- The current rest penalty in California is one hour’s wages for each day the employee did not get a rest break.
- If the employer failed to provide any breaks at all, the employee may be entitled to significantly more wages through break-time penalties and damages.
Your right to meal and rest breaks
California has specific laws that address meal and rest breaks. These laws are designed to protect your rights, as well as ensure that you have a healthy work-life balance and get paid your due wages. These are the current rules regarding meal and rest breaks in California:
- Employees are entitled to a 10-minute rest break for each four-hour period they work. If you do not receive a 10-minute rest break, your employer must pay you a full hour of pay for each break you did not receive. Each rest break must be completely free of work duties.
- Employees in California are also entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes when you work more than five hours a day. The meal break must come before the end of your fifth hour of work. Your employer must also provide a second meal break of at least 30 minutes if you work longer than 10 hours in a day. If your employer fails to provide you with a meal break, you are entitled to a full hour of pay for every day that you did not receive a meal break. Each meal break must be completely free of all work duties, and you must be free to leave the job premises if you so choose.
Do not let your meal and rest break penalties go unclaimed
If you are a non-exempt employee who has missed meal or rest breaks, you have a right to get paid for them. In many cases, the problem is not isolated to one employee. There may be multiple people who are owed meal and rest break penalties from the same employer. Often these penalties can add up to a significant amount of money for each employee. To learn more about employment law violations that affect multiple people at the same company, please see our overview of Employment Class Actions.